After 40 years without a basketball team, LaGuardia Community College welcomed its men’s and women’s players at the school’s first homecoming.
“In the 2011-2012 school year, the student government decided they would take a look at the plan to bring two teams here,” athletic director Brian Goldstein said. “They liked it and the students voted on whether they wanted to help support it financially and they got 1,700 signatures in eight days.”
So far, the teams have been doing well — the boys are 3-1 in the CUNY division and the girls are 2-1 — and many students, parents and alumni seemed happy touting the school’s colors, red and black, and showing pride in their teams.
While many schools plan their homecomings around games the teams are more likely to win, the LaGuardia Redhawks just wanted to celebrate their first-time running out onto the court for tip-off.
“This is their first game ever here and they’re playing a tough team,” Goldstein said. “We’re just happy to finally have them playing a home game for once; they’ve been on the road for a long time.”
In fact, the team they were scheduled to play, Bronx Community College, won the CUNY championships last year.
Despite the steep competition, the school’s cheerleading squad and step team — both in their first year as well — got the crowd hyped up for their team.
In a community college, almost all of the students are commuters, many come from home. This makes it more difficult to instill a sense of pride and identity for the students, something Goldstein said the basketball teams work to counteract.
“These teams aren’t just for the players but for the college community as a whole,” he said.
Though both teams lost to BCC in a tough game, the coaches are confident in their players and what they can accomplish in their first year.
“We’re looking to have fun,” Ben Chobhaphand, head men’s basketball coach and former Forest Hills High School superstar, said. “Personally, I want to win and I think we have the ability to do well, but right now the guys are working hard and enjoying the energy and just having fun.”
Many of the men and women were recruited right out of high school. Others were high school graduates who played varsity while they were still students.
“I wanted a very specific type of girl,” head women’s coach Anthony Alfaro said. “We wanted someone who was dedicated, a hard worker and well mannered. Of course, you want the talent too but you want someone who will play well with the rest of the team.”